Introducing Siren Song California … for a Sound Life

Founders Captain Charles Buckner and his very scrappy First Mate, Dr Diane Pennica (inventor of Genentech’s Heart Attack and Stroke drug t-PA, have together launched Siren Song California, a Community Outreach Program in Southern California. Visit their website at http://sirensongca.org/.

Siren Song California’s mission is to leverage the extensive boating network in Southern California to provide a free day of sailing on the ocean (Sound Life Event) to health-challenged individuals, their families and caregivers, and youth development organizations (Siren Song’s VIPs).  Sponsors help provide the boats and meals needed for the VIP Sound Life events.

Captain Charles & First Mate Diane

VIP organizations include Southern California hospitals, veterans groups, human services and local youth development groups.  Sound Life Events are scheduled to start in April, 2017, and support VIPs from Olive Crest olivecrest.org and the Marine Corps League – Southcoast Detachment.

The First Annual Siren Song Regatta will be held off Dana Point Harbor, with four VIP Sound Life Boats included in the race, followed by a VIP awards/recognition ceremony and dinner for all racers and Siren Song sponsors at the Dana Point Yacht Club.

Additional Sound Life events are being scheduled throughout the year.  These events will culminate with a Year-In-Review Banquet to share VIPs’ experiences and highlight planned events for the coming year.  The banquet will include the Founder’s Award presentation to recognize Siren Song’s most active and generous contributor(s).

Siren Song California … for a Sound Life

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My Scrappy and Resilient – Driving Strong Results Discovery by Mariellie Rodriguez Mundy

 

A few months back I received an invitation to explore an opportunity (I call it my “shiny object”) to join a Private Equity firm’s platform company as their Chief Financial Officer. The role seemed to meet many of my criteria for great jobs in my career, but most importantly it also had a very high degree of challenge and learning opportunities. I felt that my entire career had led me to this opportunity, and I was confident enough to give it my all.

The first step was an interview with the CEO and several key stakeholders. This was a lengthy process that included several phone interviews, in-person meetings and traveling to meet several board of director members at the firm’s headquarters.

As part of the process I completed various assessments. I’ve done many of these in the past, and have embraced the opportunities for self-awareness that they offer.  But something was different this time. This was the first time that I was scheduled to meet with a consultant as part of the assessment, “the guy from Boston” hired to form an opinion about my ability to meet the requirements of the CFO role.

It makes sense that an investment firm would want to do this kind of research before they make a substantial investment in such a key position. Naturally they’d want to know what kind of professional they are getting.

Fast forward a couple of months . . . on a Friday afternoon I was advised that the investment firm decided to pass on both of the two final candidates, including myself.  Ouch! The “shiny object” was gone. Gone, gone, gone. It was a moment where rejection and self-doubt overwhelmed me.

I was alone in my car driving around aimlessly when I decided to just park. As I sat there I decided to challenge my thinking and acknowledge my emotions. The great thing about embracing the fact that I felt rejected and incompetent was the deeper connection to the many “Why’s?”. I felt an irresistable need to find wisdom in this experience.

Days later, after I had time to process and understand how this experience was going to add value to my journey, I decided to reach out to “the guy from Boston” for feedback. He had met with me in Florida a month prior, and after four and a half hours of intense questioning about my life journey, he had drafted a report for the investment firm. He agreed to a call to debrief with me his assessment.

And this is where my scrappy discovery took place. The headline of his report to the investment firm described me as: “Scrappy and Resilient – driving strong results, will deliver against all odds”

Scrappy, what did he just called me? I’m scrappy? I was referred to as “scrappy” by a perfect stranger, and this was his professional opinion that he shared with a group of investment professionals! Is that even professional?!!

This man just met me, and after four and a half hours he concluded that I was scrappy. “Scrappy” was not what I had in mind as I put on my business jacket, my best watch, and arrived with confidence to meet the consultant from Boston sent to assess my ability to deliver results.

Many experiences have had a great impact in my life and the day I was called a “scrappy one” is one of those. The more I thought about it the more wisdom I found in this scrappy word. A quick google search for the definition of scrappy yielded synonyms such as feisty, tenacious, determined, persistent, dogged, aggressive, and forceful. Dictionary’s provided the following definitions:

“Having a strong, determined character, and willing to argue or fight for what you want” – Cambridge English Dictionary

“A person who is little, but can really kick some ass” – Urban Dictionary (Yikes!)

I thought I would be clever and write about how impactful this word was to me, but then I discovered an entire website with the intention of connecting scrappy women to each other. Led by Kimberly Wiefling, the founder of scrappywomen.biz, here I found a bunch of women who were unapologetic about being scrappy! I couldn’t stop smiling when I found an entire community of other remarkable, inspirational businesswomen who are not afraid to share their scrappy wisdom with others.

During the past few years I have spent a significant amount of time learning about my role as a servant leader and my effectiveness as a conscious leader. I’ve deeply considered my ability to understand the world around me and my ability to make an impact. Here’s what I am absolutely sure of . . . that there is so much more I still have to learn! And nothing excites me more than looking forward to spending the rest of my life learning – learning from others, learning from past struggles, from success, and most importantly from failures. There is so much wisdom in each moment, and every experience we are given is an opportunity for growth.

I am a businesswoman, and an entrepreneur at heart. I’m sure I was born with a shovel in my hand so that I would be ready to assist my father in mixing concrete when necessary. Ever since I can remember I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. It was simple to me, “I love construction and playing with the cash register.” I wanted to be a top financial executive of a construction firm! I lived my dream for many years, and my heart still wears a hard hat. That heart with a hard hat is eager to explore the next steps and bigger challenges.

After 20 years of a successful progressive career as a finance executive in the construction industry, and most recently CFO of a large national electrical contractor, I have decided to pause for a moment. I am determined to take the time I need to search deep within myself in order to align the second half of my career with my personal values and purpose. As someone in a field and a role where certainty and risks are constantly being evaluated, defined, measured and accounted for, I have decided to embrace uncertainty and take a risk in order to build a legacy of which my children will be proud. This journey is not shaped by a new job or even a well-defined business plan at the moment. It is a fluid process filled with wisdom and inspiration from many sources.

Today I have chosen to challenge my lifelong thinking of what I had previously assumed success looks like. I’m not sure what the future holds, but one thing is certain in a world full of uncertainty – when you are scrappy, you work very hard and will deliver against all odds! I am committed to continue to be a scrappy woman in business with a big servant heart. And I’m thankful to “the guy from Boston” for sharing his feedback.

For many years now I set my intentions for the year around three words to live by.

In 2017 I’m committed to these 2 words: Create, Connect and be Inspired.

I look forward to continuing to serve the industry I love while creating a legacy for my children, intentionally connecting with the community around me, and finding the wisdom and inspiration in each moment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marielle Rodriguez Mundy was the former CFO of Miller Electric Company.  She is a business professional, who is scrappy and resilient – driving strong results, will deliver against all odds!!  Currently, she started her new venture, she consults for a family own business assisting with strategy oversight, exit and ownership transition from the CFO perspective.

Mariellie R. Mundy, CPA, MBA
The Mariellie Mundy Company
Mmundy@marielliemundy.com
904-608-0080 

 

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WHY PUT ON A SHOW IN THESE TURBULENT TIMES? by Pamela Rose


As if spending two years researching, writing, collaborating and rehearsing with extraordinary artists wasn’t challenging enough, lately I’ve been dogged with the question  – why bother, in these turbulent times, to ‘put on a show’?

BLUES IS A WOMAN is a story I can honestly say that I’ve been driven to tell.  The fierce, audacious voices of women in the blues have always inspired me – and of course, carries on the mission of the Wild Women of Song project to honor key women in music.
I began my career as a blues singer: a teenager belting out Bessie Smith and Koko Taylor songs. The fierce, independent messages written and sung by powerful women, helped shape my own identity as a feminist — especially in the mostly-male world of live music in the early 1980’s.

What I did not imagine was just how RELEVANT it all has turned out to be. In Act 2 of BLUES IS A WOMAN, the ensemble turns an eye to post WW2 music and culture.  Everything was changing so fast – as soldiers returned home from the war, there was an uneasy feeling that somehow things should, but wouldn’t, go back to the way they used to be.  Lots of women didn’t want to give up that factory job.  Proud black soldiers couldn’t stomach being called ‘boy’ again.

It was a tectonic shift in American culture – as Aretha sang “Respect” and “Freedom”, protestors took to the streets for Civil Rights and Women’s Rights.  Nina Simone’s “Backlash Blues” is an extraordinary cry against political hypocrisy.

Why put on a show about women and the blues?  Well, as it turns out, there couldn’t be a more important time to remember and celebrate our cultural inter-connectedness.  It turns out this is exactly the right time to celebrate black culture, it’s importance to all popular music, and to hear the voices of powerful women.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Pamela Rose is a professional musician: vocalist, bandleader, songwriter and educator. While performing weekly in the Bay Area, Rose has also been touring nationally with the Wild Women of Song project, a concert series devoted to giving voice to remarkable women in American music.

Upcoming shows:
Thurs Feb 2 – Angelica’s Redwood City, 7:30 to 9:30 pm
Thurs Feb 16 – BLUES IS A WOMAN show debut – Kuumbwa Jazz Club, Santa Cruz, 7:00 pm
Thurs March 2 – Angelica’s Redwood City, 7:30 to 9:30 pm
Thurs March 30 – BLUES IS A WOMAN CD Release and concert – Freight & Salvage, Berkeley, 8:00 pm
www.bluesisawoman.com
www.pamelarose.com
prosesong@gmail.com

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How to Extract Prejudicial Data from a Political Survey by Yael Ben-Shachar?

How can you extract prejudicial data from a political survey? That was the challenge I faced when I began my summer internship with Tobias Konitzer of the Stanford Communications Department. At first, I was unsure about how a mathematician like myself could contribute to a study about politics. But I was both surprised and delighted to find out that math was the secret ingredient in solving the problem.

Before digging into the work itself, I first had to master a challenging statistical program called “R”, which would play a major role in helping us squeeze bias out of existing poll results.  I also had to learn the ins-and-outs of a proprietary algorithm that Tobi had developed for collecting and organizing large-scale data quickly and accurately.

Still, I had my questions about what we were attempting to do. I asked the project head: “How can polls be biased when the data is a reflection of the people being polled? And, if there is bias, how are we supposed to ferret it out?”

“Most people view polls or surveys as sources of scientifically-developed data,” Tobi explained. However, the history of political polling tells us otherwise because results frequently underperform our expectations. For example, pollsters were far off-base in the recent Brexit vote by British citizens. Furthermore, while the average national results of the Obama vs. Romney presidential election were largely accurate, many individual polls were consistently wrong.”

“If polling is a science, how could so many polls provide contradictory results, and how could polls such as those in the United Kingdom be so far off the mark?” I asked.

Tobi had the answer: “Bias of one form or another is often built into the polling instruments themselves,” he told me. “Such bias can result from the choice of questions posed by pollsters, how those questions are phrased, the groups that are selected for the sample, the size of the sample, and whether polls are self-selected or randomly selected in a scientific manner by a third party.”

Now, this project was getting interesting, and Tobi had my full attention.

The goal of my summer internship at Stanford was to use “R” to mathematically strip all possible bias out of a poll for the upcoming presidential election, and thus produce a more accurate result. The data we used was biased towards one side of the political spectrum because the poll was published on a website viewed almost exclusively by voters who shared that point of view. I used the algorithm to manipulate big data sets containing demographic data for both Republicans and Democrats. Then, I put my math skills to work, using the “R” program to squeeze out biases. After a substantial amount of work, we began to see different results, and my concerns about our ability to actually find and remove bias faded.

Several weeks into the project, I was thrilled to find that the polling data began to shed its built-in favoritism and actually lean towards the opposite side of the political spectrum, as was reflected in more well-regarded polls. With additional work, the data would eventually contain almost no bias, making the polling much more objective and reliable.

Although the results we were seeking seemed anti-intuitive at first, it turned out that the meticulous process we used, helped along by my love of and expertise in math, could achieve what had seemed impossible when we began. Additionally, I realized that I had developed a new skill set using the “R” program and Tobi’s algorithm for data collection and analysis. These skills could have applications in many other areas, including data gathering for school assignments, or analyzing future polling results.

I now realize that our work could have a genuine impact on the accuracy of critical information and that math could be even more powerful than I thought. Meanwhile, I’ve personally learned to take most polling data with a grain of salt.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Yael Ben-Shachar is a senior at a Silicon Valley High School. Volunteers for Boys and Girls Club teaching students math and reading skills and training other volunteers. Works with special needs children, specifically a boy with autism all year.
Learned how to squeeze prejudicial data out of large polls using sophisticated statistical programs at Stanford.
She is a Journalist for her school newspaper.

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Analyzing Gene Expression in Cartilage Cells for the Treatment of Osteoarthritis by Isita Tripathi

 (Image – Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, 9th edition.)

As a high school student, my preconceptions were that lab work only involved the wet-lab responsibilities of pipetting, centrifuging, and cell culture. But with hands-on lab experience, I soon realized that there is so much more that goes into a biological research project in order to make it both effective and applicable. With the intersection of biology, statistics, and computer science, the possibilities have expanded to include precise processing of information, changing the way in which we look at the human body and revolutionizing the field. Realizing that we are on the precipice of the new era of “big data,” I immersed myself in gene expression analysis as part of the biomedical research I undertook in the Lab of Orthopaedic Surgery at Stanford; I am eager to share my findings.

Almost 10% of the American population is plagued by osteoarthritis, the most common chronic degenerative condition affecting the joints.

In osteoarthritis, the cartilage that normally surrounds the ends of bones breaks down, creating increased friction between the bones in a joint, and resulting in swelling and extreme pain during movement. The problem remains that once osteoarthritis commences, the cartilage continues degenerating and inflammatory processes further damage the existing cartilage.

Unlike our skin, cartilage does not naturally regenerate and repair itself, making osteoarthritis a downward spiral of pain if left untreated. That is why an increasingly popular target of research is stem cell cartilage repair. While one option is to take neonatal chondrocytes (cartilage cells) and place them into the adult body, this form of stem cell cultivation is often considered unethical. However, if researchers can create induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and provide them with the proper transcriptional factors, cell culture, etc. to differentiate into chondrocytes in vitro, then these cells should be able to replenish the supply of damaged cartilage cells in vivo, acting as neonatal cartilage cells. Although many labs have established this procedure, nobody has perfected it to the point where the iPSCs would have sustained success in the body. The only way to do so is to gain more knowledge on exactly what makes each type of chondrocyte different from one another, and then study these variances to discover methods for improving existing forms of treatment.

With my project at Stanford, I was able to take a step towards answering this fundamental question. During the 10 weeks of my internship, I conducted a data analysis project on the microarray data from an ongoing project on chondrocyte differentiation at the lab. The goal was to denote significant differences and patterns in gene expression across neonatal, normal adult, iPSC, and osteoarthritic chondrocytes.

My first challenge was learning to use advanced gene expression softwares that I had never encountered before, such as dChip and MetaCore. And through this process, I realized there was so much more about the project that I had yet to learn, so I read as many articles as possible, scrounging for information that could help me tackle this process further.

After mastering the programs, I began making excel sheets that compared the data from different chondrocytes based off of fold change (a comparative measure) and probe set values (microarray data indicating levels of gene expression in a cell). Then, I created lists that denoted which genes were most heavily expressed in one chondrocyte, but under expressed in the other. Entering this information into a pathway analysis, I was able to visualize which kinds of genes made two chondrocytes different. To my surprise, I found that the difference between osteoarthritic and normal adult chondrocytes was that the cartilage cells plagued with osteoarthritis were actually expressing many of the genes that neonatal chondrocytes expressed. And through digging into this information, I landed on the very core problem of osteoarthritis: the remodeling of the extracellular matrix.

Essentially, each chondrocyte is in its own microenvironment that facilitates cell signaling and proper nourishment of the cells. As the cartilage begins to degenerate, inflammatory processes are a signal to the cell that something is wrong. In order to combat this issue, the chondrocyte begins changing the components of its extracellular matrix, the barrier that separates the cell from the outside environment. However, this changes the microenvironment within the cell, exacerbating the condition instead of helping. Perhaps suppressing the expression of some of the key genes involved in ECM remodeling, such as MMP2, would allow the cell to revert back to its original microenvironment, and even “reverse” osteoarthritis.

Although I thought I had found something original, my mentor informed me that this has been a target of research for quite some time–but nobody has been able to control or change ECM remodeling effectively. Still, I refused to be discouraged. With some more digging, I found that one of the genes highly expressed in osteoarthritic chondrocytes was a gene that was supposed to be suppressed completely 6 weeks after birth. And the only information about this gene is that it codes for opioid receptors, which manage pain perception in the brain.

Many studies had published this up-regulation of the “PENK” gene, yet none had actually explored its potential. But maybe the key was not reversing ECM remodeling or even trying to replenish damaged cartilage. I figured that the first step was to control pain and the progression of remodeling. After compiling all of the information I could find on PENK, I suggested that its high expression levels could be utilized as an internal mechanism for pain relief in osteoarthritic patients if the gene was expressed in the iPSC chondrocytes. Or maybe removing this gene would help cease ECM remodeling, prohibiting further cartilage degeneration.

While I had initially set out to make a revolutionary discovery in the field of osteoarthritis, I instead generated new ideas on how to tackle the problem, becoming proficient in terms and ideas that had never existed until the beginning of my summer. As I approach the next four years, I hope to continue my work on osteoarthritis and develop projects that can morph my the research proposals I made using microarray data into positive action.

But one of the most important things I learned throughout last summer was that past the contentment associated with making concrete discoveries, research provides the opportunity to expand the creative capacity of our minds, pushing us to think and plan in novel ways. Even after finding information there is always more to uncover, because regardless of your level of education or social status, research thrives on one leveling commonality. Everyone must keep exploring; there is always more to find.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Isita Tripathi is a senior at a Bay Area High School. She worked as a student intern in the Lab of Orthopaedic Surgery at Stanford, where she has cultivated her passion for medical research. In addition to pursuing a career as a surgeon, Isita aspires to continue performing her flute and learning Spanish during her college years.

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An Inspiring Story of a Woman Who Founded Fund-A-Need

semaMy name is Sema Tosun and I’m the president & founder of Fund-A-Need, a non-profit that focuses on helping low income seniors in San Mateo County. Fund-A-Need provides resources, education, money, goods, and items to low income seniors. I founded Fund-A-Need in February of 2014. I am also the owner of Trapeze restaurant in Burlingame, California, for over 12 years. Recently I gave up my banking & finance career of over 22 years to devote 100% of my time to  the growth of Fund-A-Need.

I was born in Turkey and came to the United States with my family at the age of seven. As a child, adjusting to America was very difficult. I was often bullied by my peers, and it was challenging, but I was fortunate to have such supportive family and friends. I am proud to be both a US Citizen as well as a Turkish Citizen. Continue reading

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“The Last Wizard of Eneri Clare” by April Lindevald

ss-20160930-april-with-book-pic1On the exact date of my 60th birthday, a time when others are winding their careers down and thinking about retirement, my first novel was published!  Self-published, to be accurate, but still, a physical  item in my hands, the culmination of eight years of loving labor, finally real, and beyond exciting.

I have always loved fiddling with words and telling stories, from the time I was very small, and scribbled, “The Misadventures of Lorelei,” about a very curious dachshund (loosely modelled on those in our household), with pictures to match.  But I also loved the stage, and so became a professional classical singer, performing, recording, and touring the world.  Whenever friends and family would tell me that I had a gift with language, and should try my hand at being an author, my standard answer was that I appreciated the compliment, but I had nothing important to say.

Eight years ago, I discovered I finally DID have something to say that wanted expression. I am an avid lover of the fantasy genre – books, movies, TV shows.  I love being transported to a far-away place and studying the complexities of human nature from a fresh perspective.  It concerened me that in almost all fantasy works, the good guys defeat the bad guys, sometimes through great sacrifice and strenuous effort.  BUT, ultimately they triumph by chopping the heads off of the bad guys, just as the other side would have done.  What, I thought, distinguishes them, then, from the other side?    Look around at our world!  What are we teaching the next generation?  That there is only one way to win the day?  That the only response to evil is a fist, or a sword…or a gun?  Don’t we believe that the values we say we cherish are enough to beat back darkness – faith, hope, love, creativity, intellect, resourcefulness, community —  in the final analysis, do we not trust them to carry any real power?

I asked myself, “What if there was a good adventure story where the good guys were not allowed to use violence and warfare to achieve their ends?  What would they do instead?  Could it at least provoke a new conversation about what we believe as a culture, and who we want to become as a people?

The moment I put pen to paper, the characters appeared and started dictating the book, beginning to end, in vivid detail. Whether one’s subconscious kicks in, or someone is really out there channeling through you, they were very real to me, and became friends that I could not wait to sneak off and spend time with.  I argued with them, and they told me to shut up and write what they told me.  They surprised me with events I had not planned.  And thank heavens, listening to interviews with successful authors convinced me that this is a common experience; I was not losing my marbles.

A year later it was done.  The next seven years were spent typing, revising, editing and polishing.  Every moment spent in that world was sheer joy for me.  Now it is time to share the results with the outside world.  “The Last Wizard of Eneri Clare” is an epic story about wounded and insecure people who have encountered life’s blows, but somehow manage to dig deep and find their inner courage.  They band together and form a community, pooling their strengths and talents to move forward.  There are many subplots embracing themes of second chances, redemption, compassion, forgiveness, and a healthy dose of humor too.  There are dragons, wizards, and water sprites, unicorns and talking beasts, a little romance and a healthy dose of magic along the way.  AND a pitched battle unlike any you have ever read about or seen before.

I hope you will give it a look!  The book is suitable for readers from age 13 up, and is available now in hardcover, softcover, and digital formats through Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and Bookstore.balboapress.com.  You can find out more about it on my website:   www.aprillindevald.com , or at facebook.com/lastwizard2016 .

And for those of you who may be approaching an end of some of the earlier chapters of your life, don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s too late for you to have something meaningful to say!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
APRIL L. LINDEVALD has led an adventurous life as a classically-trained singer, recording and touring with the Grammy Award-winning Gregg Smith Singers, and appearing for many years with the New York City Opera. She is also a busy intuitive counselor, and author of the popular column “Creating A Magical Life.” Additionally, she has released a CD of her original inspirational songs. April is a lifelong spiritual seeker. She resides on Long Island with her educator husband, Brian Abrams, and their dog-kids Max and Cookie.
Contact her at aprlsngs@optonline.net

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Never give up! by Inna Rosputnia

SS 2016 KW Inna Rosputnia pic2

Inna Rosputnia was born and growing up in Ukraine at a time when it was a battleground between communism and democracy. A personal experience of this conflict, including poverty, struggling and intolerance — as well as a personal fascination with philosophy shaped Inna’s thinking in later years and influenced her successful strategies in both finance and philanthropy.

Inna graduated from 2 Universities and have Master Degree in Economy and International Relations. She began her career in finance field in 2007. In 2008 Inna became a Head of Financial Risk Insurance Department at Alfa Insurance IC (Ukraine) that is a part of Alfa Group Consortium – one of Russia’s largest privately owned investment groups, with interests in oil and gas, commercial and investment banking, asset management, insurance, retail trade, telecommunications, water utilities and special situation investments. Inna began trading futures, commodities, and stocks in 2009. She is working with individuals and families as well as institutions and corporate clients. Inna also makes investments in commercial real estate in different countries. Her real estate portfolio includes office centers and hotels.

Inna has been active as a philanthropist since 2013, when she began providing funds to help women in Africa to attend Universities and start own business. In 2016 Inna joined Cherie Blair Foundation for women, where she is working to promote gender equity, the values of open society, human rights, transparency and empower women.

Inna is the author of a book “Basic Instinct of Woman-Trader”, published in Russian and English languages in 2016. Her articles and essays on markets, financial planning, politics, society, and economics regularly appear in newspapers and magazines, like The Business Woman Media, Financial Magnates and other.

Here is the link for online sale of the Russian version:  https://www.amazon.com/x41E-x441-x43D-x43E-Russian-ebook/dp/B01I1PCR3S#nav-subnav

The English version will be available in late September 2016. You can pre-order the book on her website:  http://ladyf-trader.com/my-book/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Inna Rosputnia – A futures trader and wealth manager, working with individual and institutional clients; founder and CEO of Lady F Wealth Management. I graduated from two universities and has a Master degree in Economy and International Relations.

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Smart People + Smart Leadership = Happy Customers? by Lucy Freedman

Interpersonal Intelligence for Technical Organizations

By Lucy Freedman, developer of the SYNTAX of Influence, co-author of Smart Work (the second edition of Smart Work: The Syntax Guide to Influence, is available at HappyAbout.com or Amazon. ).

Originally published at http://svforumelsig.blogspot.jp/

When I first started my business, a mentor quizzed me about what it meant to have a business. Does coming up with a great idea make it a business? Clearly no. Does having a product make it a business? What about an office, employees, marketing? No, no, and no, he said. You have a business when you have a customer.  Aha.

lucyfreedman

In the world of technology, we can get so focused on the product or process that the relationship part of the business receives a minimal amount of mindshare. Sure, when we need to make a funding pitch, attract a key executive, or give a customer presentation, we put attention into those relationships. Even then, it’s typical of technologists to be mostly content-oriented and not so focused on tuning into the interests of their audience.  There’s room for growth.

While the ability to relate well with funders, talent, and customers is important for business success, the internal communication in a company is equally important. What customers and VC’s really want is for the product to work and meet their needs in a timely and cost-effective way.  For that to happen, managers and teams need to be able to get on the same page and come up with solutions and answers. Knowledge needs to be mobilized. Deadlines need to be met. Problems need to be solved. All this takes communication that is both focused and flexible.

The Challenge

The kinds of interpersonal intelligence that allow people and teams to collaborate well tend to be underdeveloped in engineering organizations for three main reasons.

  • Engineers are generally not drawn to learning “soft skills”
  • Engineering leadership is mostly made up of engineers
  • Most interpersonal skills training is oriented more toward personal growth than practical business interactions.

As a result, efficiency, accurate and relevant sharing of knowledge, and delivery to the customer are often hampered by turf battles, planning disconnects, and just plain miscommunication.

Is this just a depressing downer, condemning engineering organizations and their customers to clunky communication, relieved only by those special high-tech + high-touch individuals who can navigate well both technically and interpersonally? Although many are resigned to this state of affairs, there are lights flickering here and there.

Bright Lights and Good Books

In fact, at a past Silicon Valley Engineering Leadership Community meeting, Ron Lichty presented a “Crash Course” based on his new book with co-author Mickey W. Mantle, Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams  (Addison-Wesley, www.ManagingTheUnmanageable.net ). They address important considerations for people who move up the technical ladder from writing code to managing people.

Another new and highly recommended book on this subject is Team Geek: A Software Developer’s Guide to Working Well with Others by Brian W. Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman (O’Reilly Media, 2012). It’s very entertaining reading and addresses expanding circles of influence, from your own team to the organization to the user community.

A few years back,  Michael Lopp wrote the insightful and humorous book, Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager (Apress, 2007). Michael gives practical advice for many of the situations that recur in software development. He names some of the types of people you’ll run across – such as Mr. Irrelevant, Laptop Larry, Curveball Kurt, the Snake, and Free Electrons. Cleverly written, full of useful homilies.

What all of these books have in common is the practical experience of the authors, who have lived what they are writing about.  They share illustrative stories that those who follow in their footsteps will easily relate to.

De-coding How People Work

As an outsider who can’t code my way out of a paper bag, I have been taking a different approach for the past few decades of working as a consultant, coach, and facilitator for high tech companies.  Programmers understand the structure, or syntax, that is required for code to work. I have studied the structure, or syntax, that is required for human communication to work.

What I have discovered is that the smart people who know how to code have an easier time learning interpersonal skills when they have access to the proper syntax for communicating. Hundreds of engineers have experienced and applied the SYNTAX model to their workplaces. People who considered themselves non-people-oriented have shown that with several relatively small changes in their communication, they can achieve great improvements in their working relationships.

This is not about sentence structure or grammar. If you consider that people are pretty systematic in how we organize our perceptions and our behavior, it makes sense that you can detect each person’s syntax, and hence, get more predictable results with them. There’s also a structure, a syntax derived from studying outstanding performers, that makes communication work better. Our model, SYNTAX, represents that architecture so that people can easily learn it.

It’s explained in detail in the book Smart Work, which I co-authored with Lisa Marshall. If you are interested in getting a look at it, or even writing a review, please contact me at syntaxoffice@syntx.com and I will gladly share it with you.

Smart Leadership

When leaders in an organization start practicing SYNTAX principles, or some of the other excellent suggestions in the books listed above, they create a climate where it is much more natural for others to collaborate productively as well. It’s a matter of good design of human systems – whether writing effective, clean code for applications that will benefit people, or holding effective, clean meetings where work gets done and agreements are solid, it’s about designing intelligent human systems.

Whether through the stories and rules of the road derived from experience, or through applying a systematic, structured approach to interpersonal behavior, everyone benefits when a technical organization develops its conscious competence at communicating.

Engineering is about solving real-world problems and creating innovations that make a difference.  It takes smart people working well together to do this successfully. With smart people, smart leadership, and outstanding communication, you get happy customers. That, plus your satisfaction at meeting your own high standards, makes it worthwhile to master the softer skills.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lucy Freedman is Founder and CEO of Syntax for Change, working with change leaders in technology companies to spread collaborative leadership throughout their organizations and to their strategic partners. Lucy has trained and certified both internal and external facilitators who have implemented Syntax programs in companies such as Agilent, HP, Sun, Oracle, EDS, Tokyo Electron, Intel, National Semiconductor, and Cisco Systems. Visit SyntaxforChange.com for an explanatory video and to request a complimentary sample chapter of Smart Work: The Syntax Guide to Influence. Direct email is lucy@syntaxforchange.com.

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Good Job: How to Accept a Compliment by Mildred Lynn McDonald

AAEAAQAAScappy Women Mildred Lynn McDonald blog 2016-06-07

*This post was originally published in UCSC (University of California, Santa Cruz) Extension in Silicon Valley Project Management blog.

I’ve never had a problem accepting a compliment, so it came as a surprise to discover that many people find this basic interpersonal skill challenging and uncomfortable.

After a bit of reflection, I decided that cultural orientation aside, accepting compliments is second nature to me. Why? Because I don’t try to figure out the reason behind the compliment, other than the goodwill that is presented to me “in the moment”.

At first glance, this might seem naive, but I assure you that accepting these little bouquets of acknowledgment with a smile and a sincere “thank you” has served me well over the years with both friends and co-workers.

As author Maya Angelou once said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

I believe that this sage observation captures the essence of accepting a compliment exponentially because when a compliment is received with grace and generosity, both the giver and the receiver feel good. Really good. Hmm, perhaps this is because as human beings, we are simply “wired” that way. I’d like to think so.

Trouble Accepting a Compliment? Here’s a Tip

If you find yourself stammering, filling the air with pregnant pauses, or discarding many of the compliments that come your way, here is a tip: When receiving a compliment, try to clear your mind and focus on the other person rather than yourself. Think about it. If you focus on the other person, you are not making a judgement about your worthiness to receive a compliment, the accuracy of the compliment or anything else that might make this potentially enriching interpersonal exchange “less than” it is. Plus, and this is a big plus, you are now in a position to make another human being feel good.

We all know what it feels like to deliver a genuine compliment to a friend or co-worker only to have our words diminished by “Oh, it was nothing.” or “Anyone could do this.” or “It is OK, but I really wanted to do xyz.” It can make you feel so let down … just like a deflated helium balloon!

If you have trouble accepting a compliment and are asking yourself “how to” accept a compliment in a positive way, check out these scenarios by K.T. Bernhagen:

  • For a job well done: “Thank you. I was hoping this was what you were looking for, and I really like it too.”
  • For a speech, performance, article, or work of art: “Thank you. I really enjoy (writing, performing, speaking, whatever), and I’m glad you liked it!”
  • For your help: “Thank you. I’m so glad that I could help.”
  • If you caught a mistake that was missed by others: “Thanks for noticing. I’m glad I caught it, too.”
  • In any other situation: “Thank you. I appreciate it!” Enough said.

Here are a couple of other scenarios for your toolbox by author Jack Griffen:

  • If someone says “You deserve it”, consider replying with: “I’ve had a good example set for me. You have given me a lot of support. It’s meant a lot.”
  • If someone says “I don’t give praise lightly”, consider replying with: “I know you don’t. That’s why I am thrilled with your remarks. They mean a great deal to me.”

Like most things in life, all you will need to master the art of accepting a compliment with grace, generosity and goodwill is a little time, attention and practice.

I’d like to end on a comical note, so here’s a quote about compliments by the incorrigible Mark Twain: “I have been complimented many times and they always embarrass me; I always feel they have not said enough.” Ha!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mildred Lynn McDonald – Catalyst & Life Coach | Internet Radio/Podcast Host & Producer

Mildred Lynn’s life adventure whisked her across North America, through the industries of Health & Fitness, the executive halls of Fortune 50 high tech companies, and into the intriguing arena of Life Purpose, Energy Medicine and Environmental studies. She has an advanced degree in Science & Nutrition, training in Adult Education, graduated as a Certified Integrative Coach, and currently combines all three as a Healing Conversationalist.

The common thread has been a love of people and the sincere desire to help everyone live their passion, find balance, and experience life fully and completely. With a little time and patience, she transformed her passion, intuitive gifts, and coaching skills into a vibrant mentoring and life coaching practice. Today, it is her great pleasure to produce/host four popular Internet Radio shows/podcasts devoted to all things mind-body-spirit on BlogTalkRadio, iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher and Podbean. Website: http://healingconversationswithmildredlynn.com

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